Inference to the Best Explanation

20 October, 2015 at 22:23 | Posted in Theory of Science & Methodology | Comments Off on Inference to the Best Explanation

 

In a time when scientific relativism is expanding, it is important to keep up the claim for not reducing science to a pure discursive level. We have to maintain the Enlightenment tradition of thinking of reality as principally independent of our views of it and of the main task of science as studying the structure of this reality. Perhaps the most important contribution a researcher can make is reveal what this reality that is the object of science actually looks like.

Science is made possible by the fact that there are structures that are durable and are independent of our knowledge or beliefs about them. There exists a reality beyond our theories and concepts of it. It is this independent reality that our theories in some way deal with. Contrary to positivism, I would as a critical realist argue that the main task of science is not to detect event-regularities between observed facts. Rather, that task must be conceived as identifying the underlying structure and forces that produce the observed events.

Instead of building models based on logic-axiomatic, topic-neutral, context-insensitive and non-ampliatve deductive reasoning — as in mainstream economic theory — it would be so much more fruitful and relevant to apply inference to the best explanation, given that what we are looking for is to be able to explain what’s going on in the world we live in.

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